Refugee Program Must Strengthen Protections for Climate-Displaced Persons, USCRI and Others Urge

By USCRI September 7, 2023

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is joining other refugee resettlement and policy organizations to call for stronger protection pathways for climate-displaced persons, including through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

In a September 7 letter to President Biden, refugee resettlement and policy leaders urged the use of existing mechanisms to extend protections to refugee populations affected by climate-related disasters. The letter was also addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Assistant Secretary of State Julieta Valls Noyes for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). Please click here to read the full letter.

In June, PRM released a statement on its climate change strategy, including the goal of strengthening protections for refugees and other displaced populations including through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

While a climate-specific protection pathway crafted by Congress remains a priority, signatories believe the administration can use existing programs and mechanisms to strengthen protections for climate-affected refugees and other climate-displaced populations. These steps would operationalize the administration’s pledges to address climate-related displacement made in the White House’s 2021 Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration almost two years ago.

The recommendations in the letter include:

-Expanded references to climate-related displacement in the administration’s upcoming reports to Congress on proposed refugee admissions

-Priority 2 group designations of climate-affected refugee populations, such as South Sudanese refugees

-Use of the Welcome Corps private sponsorship program to facilitate the sponsorship of climate-affected refugees

-Processing of climate-affected refugees in the Western Hemisphere through the Safe Mobility Offices and the use of humanitarian parole for those who do not meet the refugee definition.

These policy asks align with recommendations delineated in USCRI’s joint March 2023 report “Climate of Coercion: Environmental and Other Drivers of Cross-Border Displacement in Central America and Mexico” and its July 2023 policy brief “Climate-Related Displacement: Potential Protections in U.S. Policy.”

This letter is part of USCRI’s ongoing policy and advocacy work highlighting strengths and weaknesses in existing U.S. and international policy toward migration from climate-affected countries and possible policies or models to pursue in response.

USCRI founded in 1911, is a non-governmental, not-for-profit international organization committed to working on behalf of refugees and immigrants and their transition to a dignified life.

For press inquiries, please contact: [email protected].

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